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Trump: Nuclear threat from North Korea is over, you know

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It is? After a successful start to talks between the US and North Korea, Donald Trump seems eager to claim complete victory. In a tweet this morning, Trump advised the American people that they can “sleep well tonight” with the Pyongyang threat resolved:

President Trump declared Wednesday that there is “no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea” as he returned to Washington, offering a rosy assessment of a summit with the leader of a nation that still possesses nuclear weapons. …

Trump’s tweets followed a high-profile summit in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that produced a promise to “denuclearize” the Korean Peninsula but was scant on details.

His tweets came shortly after Air Force One landed at Joint Base Andrews just outside Washington.

There’s a wee problem with this victory lap, which is that we, um, still haven’t actually won anything yet. The agreement signed yesterday delivered nothing more than the remains of POWs and MIAs, plus an agreement to keep talking about denuclearization. Trump and Kim clearly discussed a process of denuclearization and verification, but until that process is complete, Kim still has his nukes and the delivery systems to launch them at the US and our allies. That threat is not just real but acute, even if it is less acute than it was three months ago.

Trump’s supporters and critics tried to rush to judgments yesterday in the wake of the post-summit declaration too. In my column for The Week, I argue that it’s way too soon to score:

Rather than see this as a first step in a process with unknown outcomes, most people appeared to rush to various conclusions: One side hailed the meeting as a historic achievement that should guarantee Trump a place in history, while the other considered it a surrender by Trump and a betrayal of our allies. In truth, very little has changed. Both sides have had an opportunity to size each other up and prepare for the next steps of the process, assuming those next steps come at all.

We have plenty of time to pass judgment on this strategy depending on the eventual outcome. Let’s not forget that the world hailed 1994’s Agreed Framework, which was supposed to halt North Korea’s power plant program, as a historic achievement at the time, only to discover that North Korea had been cheating all along and never planned to denuclearize. When attempts to tighten the inspection regime were made, it collapsed and led to the arms race that brought us to where we are today. Kim and his regime may still think they can get away with a similar ploy, which will make this week’s summit just another missed opportunity in a nuclear standoff. On the other hand, the summit managed to at least change the rhetoric between the two nations, allowing an opportunity for progress if — and it’s a big if — the Kim regime really does want to find a way out of the nuclear standoff it created with the U.S. and cannot hope to win.

But as tempting as it might seem, let’s not jump to conclusions just yet. We haven’t lost anything, but we also haven’t yet solved the problem. Trump himself noted that, in six months, he may very well wind up with egg on his face if Kim backtracks or refuses to commit to verifiable denuclearization. Given the history of the Kim regime, it pays to be skeptical, but not close-minded. It certainly doesn’t pay to declare victory just yet.

Trump should take more care than most on this point. The history of our dealings with Pyongyang contains mostly reversals on pledges by the Kim regime and balks at verification. The fact that they have nuclear weapons now stands as a testament to another supposed “win” for one of Trump’s predecessors, the Agreed Framework deal cut by Bill Clinton in 1994. That was another peace-in-our-time moment with North Korea that wound up leaving egg on our collective faces. The Kim regime will not give up its nuclear weapons easily, and claiming that the threat is over after a single meeting is naive at best.

If one believes the North Koreans, the process for eliminating the nuclear threat will be slow and contentious:

North Korea’s state-run media is framing the agreements reached at the Singapore summit as a “step-by-step” process intended to bring U.S. rewards in exchange for gradual moves by Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear program.

The account Wednesday in the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper could signal the first rift with President Trump over the perceived way forward with the North’s leader, Kim Jong Un. The extensive and — by North Korean standards — speedy coverage also suggested an attempt to set the post-summit narrative of the vaguely worded declaration signed by Kim and Trump. …

The overall message appeared mostly aimed at North Koreans, portraying Kim as setting the terms of the post-summit framework and at the helm of further policy shifts away from emphasis on the nuclear arsenal — which Kim long called the nation’s “treasured sword.”

“Kim Jong Un is showing that he is not succumbing to external pressure, but carrying out denuclearization based on his own plan and vision,” said Lee Jong-seok, a North Korea expert at Seoul’s Sejong Institute, a government-affiliated think tank.

It is imperative for the Kim regime to show that any nuclear rollbacks were voluntary and not the subject of demands and threats from the United States, he noted.

Even if Kim has agreed to actually denuclearize, that decision could change depending on the fraught internal politics of the regime. It will be a long, long time before we can say that the nuclear threat from North Korea no longer exists, if indeed we ever can. And we’ll need a lot more verification of that than just a few presidential tweets, too.

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Forecast: GOP now more likely to have *at least* 54 Senate seats next year than to lose its majority

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A nifty catch by Philip Klein, eyeballing the latest data from Nate Silver’s model (as of 5:15 p.m. ET). Check it yourself. Democrats momentarily have an 18.4 percent chance of gaining two seats and winning a majority next month. Whereas Republicans have a 9.1 percent chance of gaining three, a 5.5 percent chance of gaining four, a 3.2 percent chance of gaining five, a 1.4 percent of gaining six, a 0.7 percent chance of gaining seven, and a 0.3 percent chance of shooting the lights out and gaining eight (which would leave them one seat shy of a filibuster-proof majority, for what it’s worth). Add those up and you get a 20.2 percent chance of 54 or better.

Which can be summed up in four words: Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

Klein on the path to 54:

Though Republicans were always favorites to keep the Senate, their odds have improved in recent weeks, with three states in particular giving them a boost. Republicans are now considered “likely” to keep their seats in Texas and Tennessee and North Dakota seems ready to flip into the Republican column. Barring any other major upsets, victories in those three races would be enough for Republicans to keep the Senate — hence their 81.6 percent chances overall.

To get to 54, the most likely scenario would be that Republicans win the tossup states of Nevada and Missouri, and then surge to victory in Arizona and Florida (two races that are currently tilting Democrat, but well within range of Republican victory). Beyond that, they’d have to start flipping some seats that are currently considered “likely” to remain Democrat, such as Montana and West Virginia.

Eh, I don’t know if Montana and Indiana, the latter of which he neglected to mention, are all that “likely” to remain Democratic. They’re leaning that way, with both Jon Tester and Joe Donnelly clinging to three-point leads. But Montana hasn’t been polled in three weeks and the latest from Indiana has Donnelly up four but with just 44 percent of the vote. In fact, in none of the four polls dating back to August has Donnelly topped 44, suggesting that a lot of Hoosiers are thinking hard about whether to stick with the incumbent. It’s likely that the GOP will be disappointed somewhere on Election Night — Missouri, Nevada, and Arizona are all leading candidates — but going for one for two on Montana and Indiana seems doable.

Whichever way they do it, if they can get to 54 then Collins and Murkowski might well be nonfactors during the next SCOTUS battle. Flake won’t be in the Senate at all, of course. Trump really might have the arsenal he needs to fill a Ginsburg or Breyer vacancy with a conservative.

That’s the good news. The not-so-good news, also from Silver’s model:

Click the link and add up the different probable outcomes and you’ll see that the GOP has about the same odds of holding the House as Democrats do of winning … at least 54 seats. They’ve got a 10 percent chance of winning at least 60. Gonna be a lot of subpoenas for Pat Cipollone to cope with next year.

There are no new swing-state polls as I write this but keep an eye on the one of Arizona that’s currently in progress (yes, in progress) at the NYT’s site, the Upshot. As I write this at a little after 5 p.m. on the east coast, they’ve compiled a sample of 299 people — not large enough yet to give us confidence in the topline numbers but large enough to make it worth paying attention to. Currently Martha McSally leads Kyrsten Sinema by four points, 49/45. If that holds through the end of the poll, it would be the second straight survey showing McSally ahead after trailing for most of the race. (The previous poll had her up six.) Stay tuned.

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Midterm 2018 TEXAS: Robert (Beto) O’Rourke vs. Ted Cruz

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Texas is Texas.

You don’t mess with Texas!

Texans don’t want a far left US Senator who lies about his background and police records, DUI included, and abuses everything the Lone Star State stands for.

Senator Ted Cruz is up by at least 5 points — but that is not enough.

Cruz is a real conservative and an intellectual giant. He has the highest possible ratings from conservative groups as a sitting US Senator.


We can’t let him down.

His opponent Beto (really Robert) O’Rourke isn’t Hispanic but he is loudly PROGRESSIVE.

He is a phony.

He is a Democratic Socialist and would spell doom for our Republic.

He wants open borders, more rights for criminals, and an end to the petroleum economy.

In Texas?

Trump won Texas by 9 points.

Cruz should win reelection by at least that amount.

Recall Cruz not only voted for Judge Kavanaugh but he articulately defended due process and innocent until proven guilty – the very hallmark of western jurisprudence.

We need him; America needs his voice in the Senate.

There has not been a Democrat to hold statewide office in Texas since 1994!

Keep it that way.

Cruz is a star in national politics and a firm vote for our side. He makes America first! And he is the best advocate for Texas bare none.

Turnout is critical.

Cruz MUST win.

Make this viral in every corner of Texas.

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Pat Robertson: C’mon, we’re not going to blow up a key Middle East alliance over one little murder

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Lefties are marveling that a brand-name Christian conservative would be encouraging followers to look the other way at an assassination, but they’re forgetting Jesus’s parting words at the end of the Sermon on the Mount: “If you want to make an omelette, you’ve got to break a few eggs.”

Wait, am I misremembering? My youthful memories of the gospels are not the best. I think perhaps the savior’s actual parting words were “Velvet glove, iron fist.”

I mean, that at least sounds like Jesus.

Lotta mixed feelings about the evangelical turn towards hard-nosed realpolitik under Trump. On the one hand, the gripe about Christian conservatives used to be that they were forever trying to inject morals into the messy business of politics, made more uncomfortable by the fact that many millions of people disagree with some of their stances on sexual morality and resent their attempts to convert them into policy. Well, good news: Between Robertson’s take on the Khashoggi affair and the complete pass given to Trump on matters like Stormygate, there’s less moralizing than ever.

The bad news? I’m unclear from the clip below on how many murders Pastor Robertson would be willing to tolerate in the name of preserving the alliance and “$100 billion worth of arms sales,” as he notes in passing. Presumably his interest in the latter answers my question: Some of those weapons will be used to continue killing civilians in neighboring Yemen, as he doubtless knows. If Robertson’s willing to condone that in the name of checking Iran, naturally he would condone looking the other way at a lot of things, Khashoggi’s murder just one among them. Christianity’s nice and all but we’ve gotta live in the real world.

I honestly don’t know whether to call him a fraud or to salute him for taking a cold but sober view of the international chessboard.

There may be another reason why he and POTUS’s friends at CBN are rushing to provide cover here, though:

To some extent the Saudis’ problem is Trump’s problem. Right now Trump can afford to ignore the Democrats’ interest in finding out how much his and the Kingdom’s interests overlap. In three months, with the House likely in Democratic hands, it’ll be harder.

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